Karunanidhi’s troubled legacy: 1990 Wikileaks cable reveals his unprecedented support for LTTE

After a long and fulfilling life, DMK Patriarch and one of the stalwarts of the Dravidian movement, Karunanidhi, passed away at a hospital in Chennai at the age of 94. And after a significant controversy, the High Court of Madras, in its infinite wisdom and boundless time to entertain themselves with such matters, has ruled that Karunanidhi will have his burial site at Marina after all.

The Kalaignar, however, had a troubled political past and a legacy that made him unpopular with large sections of the population. One of the most shameful incidents was perhaps when the former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, the late Jayalalitha was assaulted by DMK MLAs and attempts were made to even disrobe her, all the while as Karunanidhi, who was Chief Minister then, looked on. Apart from this sordid spectacle, Karunanidhi has also denigrated Shri Rama in the past and was also accused of abetting the assassination of former PM Rajiv Gandhi.

A confidential Wikileaks cable from the 1990s has emerged which discusses Karunanidhi’s unprecedented support for the LTTE and the concern among authorities for the same. The cable also mentions that Karunanidhi’s declarations of support for the LTTE were unlikely to yield political benefits.

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The cable reads, “Chief minister Karunanidhi’s obvious tilt towards the LTTE is generating widespread controversy and dismay in Tamil Nadu, particularly in light of the DMK leader’s strained relations with the Tigers in the past. Since December, and especially in the last two months, the Chief Minister has gone out of his way to demonstrate his commitment to the Tigers — at what would appear to be significant political cost. No political figure here, least of all from the DMK, can explain to anyone’s satisfaction the gamebook Karunanidhi is using. As he becomes more and more of a “Tamil Eelam hardliner”, some may feel he is burning bridges with Delhi. We are at present baffled.”

The cable mentions that everyone was perplexed with Karunanidhi’s sudden change of heart and some even speculated that Karunanidhi desired a ‘Tamil Eelam’ variant in India itself. Although there were several theories about Karunanidhi’s unquestioned support to the LTTE at the cost of significant political capital, none could quite explain his change of heart.

Political leaders across the spectrum were dismayed with the DMK leader’s staunch support for the LTTE. Things reached a climax when Karunanidhi refused to attend the reception of the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) causing his political opponents to question his patriotism. His insult to the Indian Army was not appreciated even by his allies. Karunanidhi had even called the IPKF as ITKF: Indian Tamil Killing Force. His government was also dismissed on the ground that he had passed state secrets to the LTTE.

The LTTE was known to attack not only Sri Lankan Army but also other Tamil militant groups which it viewed as competition. The brutality of the organization also exposed by former members of the terrorist group. Karunanidhi even pursued a pact between rival Tamil militant groups but to no avail.

In her memoir, a former member mentioned how they had instructions to shoot at the legs of innocent Tamilians who were crossing over to government controlled lands during the closing stages of the War.


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